Monday, December 8, 2014

Dance USM!

The University of Southern Maine's long time dance director Maria Tzianabos scored a big hit this past weekend by having her dance students collaborate with USM's theatre and music departments on their annual program. The result was a wonderfully rich sensory experience. There was acting as well as dancing, there was also singing, lush visual backdrops and video images. The interdisciplinary approach featured original works by student, faculty and guest choreographers. What was also most impressive was that many of the dancers are not experienced and not part of a dance major program, yet they all shined. No awkward performances, the dancers all looked polished and well-rehearsed.

The first dance on the program Lessons for Ladies featured Callie Cox, Mary Kate Ganza, Sarah Kennedy, Megan C. McQuire, Hannah Perry, and Rhiannon Vonder Haar. This piece was choreographer by Tzianabos and was directed by Theater Professor Meghan Brodie.

The dance began with 5 woman wearing 1950s dresses with aprons who posed as a tuxedoed crooner sang into a microphone "Keep Young and Beautiful." The theme of how women should behave and treat their husbands goes from 1917 etiquette rules which they coyly recount, up through 2009 tips on how to be sweet for your boyfriend. The dancers morph from the downtrodden housewives into modern girls that don't want to be "a pretty girl." Great fun and an excellent theme for these college aged dancers.

Next was a solo The Dirty Boogie choreographed and danced by Brittany Pace. This tap dance piece was high energy and had lots of great jazzy moves. Pace is very skilled dancer with much experience. The only problem with the dance was we couldn't hear the tapping sounds because the music was loud and the floor was not wooden. Pace also choreographed a Hip Hop sextet Bring the Old School Back that featured riffs on urban dance where challenges are played off each others increasingly tricky moves. Colorful graffiti projections were designed by Shannon Zura.

Steam Heat choreographed by USM faculty teacher Vanessa S. W. Beyland was danced by Margaret Brownlee, Callies Cox, Andrea Danforth, Alexandra Gardiner, Sarah Kennedy, Alison Loughlin, Hannah Perry, Braden Socquet, Caleb Streadwick, Emma Thompkins, Abigail Thompkins, Jessie Vander, and Sengmolicka Vuthy. White button down shirts, bowties and Bowler hats adorned the high kicking, jazzy and very broadway-style dancers. This was fun!

Other dances included ariel harness work performed by Elise Adams, Janette Fertig, Codruta Valentina Postache, Jesse Vander, and Emily Waller, also a dance with big silhouetted windows, a trio of Cotton Club performers, and a solo by student Sarah Kennedy who performed with exceptional dynamic power and focus.

Dance USM! December 4-7 2014 at Russell Hall, Gorham Maine

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